Humpback whales do not have teeth, but instead have baleen plates with a multitude of bristles that help them to catch their prey. Spaces between the baleen bristles allow water to pass through while preventing small fish and other foods from escaping.

Because humpback whales do not have teeth to chew their food, they only eat food that can be swallowed whole. This limits the diet of the humpback whale to small aquatic animals, and it can swallow hundreds or even thousands of small fish in one gulp. Its baleen bristles are used to strain the food from the water.